Aging is part of a dog’s full circle of life, and they age in a similar fashion to humans! Meaning, as your pet ages they begin to gradually lose their ability to hear and see as well as they used to. They won’t have such a pep in their step or move like they used to; they won’t be as spry anymore. They become more prone to diseases and illnesses. We see how “doom and gloom” this sounds but know that owning a senior dog doesn’t put a stop to the good ol’ days. This is only a new phase of their life, one that can still be full of love, laughter, warmth and fun!
Stick around and read through for our tips on how to best celebrate National Senior Dog Month with us!
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the approximate age that dogs are considered to be “senior” is at 7 years old. However, it is important to know that not every dog begins their geriactric phase at the same age, as this is relative to the size and breed of your dog! So your 7 year old Great Dane might act differently than your 7 year old Chihuahua. We’re going to give you five tips that you can incorporate into the everyday life of caring for your senior dog.
Remember that one time your puppy had the zoomies and they ran full-speed into the wall and you watched them shake it off and start zooming around again?
Yeah, it’s a little different with a senior dog. You want to be more attentive to any changes in behavior! Declining energy levels are a common sign of your dog becoming geriactric, so typically there won’t be any more zoomies. If your senior dog bumps into anything, like a wall, you want to watch them for any changes in mobility after that. Are they limping now? Are they favoring a certain spot on their body? At this stage in their life, they’re less likely to “shake it off”. Along with decreased energy, have you noticed your senior dog avoid taking the stairs or jumping up on the couch to cuddle with you? Do they seem grumpy when you pet certain limbs? This is yet another sign of your adult dog transitioning to the senior dog life phase! Arthritis is very common in geriactric dogs, bringing us to our next tip….
Chances are your veterinarian is more than equipped to develop a treatment plan for an arthritic senior dog. For example, here at Circle of Life Animal Hospital, our senior dog pals are no stranger to our cold laser therapy machine! We work to present you with a personalized treatment plan for your senior dog, no matter the issue. It is important to pay close attention to your senior dog so that you may catch issues early, and work with your veterinarian to get them on the right track. Annuals are extremely important for senior dogs for the exact reason, your treatment plan may even require more frequent check-ups, like semi-annual visits!
We’re not going to give you a flat kilocalorie(kcal) count that your senior dog should be intaking each day in this section. So many variables influence how much your dog should be eating that, even if we wanted to, it would be near impossible for us to provide a kcal count that is acceptable for all types of senior dogs. Instead, we’re going to piggy-back off of the previous tip. Make sure you’re asking your vet about what food your senior dog should be eating! Senior dogs are prone to obesity (remember that declining energy level?) and you might think that the obvious answer is “senior dog food” but there are so many different types of senior dog diets. Please consult your vet about your dog’s weight as well! If your senior dog is losing weight or gaining weight this could be a food issue and they may require a change in diet, or there could be some underlying issue that is resulting in weight loss and in this case it was a good idea to bring it up to your vet!
We mentioned before that pets age in a fashion that is similar to humans and this includes cognitive dysfunction, a term in veterinary medicine which describes a behavioral syndrome in geriactric pets that is similar to senility in humans. The AVMA provided a list of behaviors to look out for, please be aware that some behaviors are also signs of other possible issues going on with your pet. It is very important to consult with your veterinarian about any changes in behavior!
Assuming a pet is near the end of their life once they are geriactric and therefore do not need to keep up with oral hygiene, flea and tick prevention, vaccines, and maintenance medications is a common, yet wrong, theory! Fleas, ticks and bacteria do not age-discriminate. Please continue with these maintenance items, we’ve mentioned before that senior dogs are more prone to diseases and illnesses and so they need this routine now more than ever. You may not vaccinate your senior dog as often as you did before (this depends on the plan your veterinarian has implemented) but the remaining vaccines your dog requires are still important in keeping them safe.
And of course if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us!
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